Questions and Answers about Arthritis Pain
What Will Happen When You First Visit a Doctor for Your Arthritis Pain?
The doctor will usually do the following:
- Take your medical history and ask questions such as: How long have you had
this problem? How intense is the pain? How often does it occur? What causes it
to get worse? What causes it to get better?
- Review the medications you are using.
- Conduct a physical examination.
- Take blood and/or urine samples and request necessary laboratory work.
- Ask you to get x rays taken or undergo other imaging procedures such as a
CAT scan (computerized axial tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance
Once the doctor has done these things and reviewed the results
of any tests or procedures, he or she will discuss the findings with you and
design a comprehensive management approach for the pain caused by your
osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Who Can Treat Arthritis Pain?
A number of different specialists may be involved in the care
of an arthritis patient -- often a team approach is used. The team may include
doctors who treat people with arthritis (rheumatologists), surgeons
(orthopaedists), and physical and occupational therapists. Their goal is to
treat all aspects of arthritis pain and help you learn to manage your pain. The
physician, other health care professionals, and you, the patient, all play an
active role in the management of arthritis pain.
How Is Arthritis Pain Treated?
There is no single treatment that applies to all people with
arthritis, but rather the doctor will develop a management plan designed to
minimize your specific pain and improve the function of your joints. A number
of treatments can provide short-term pain relief.
-- Because people with osteoarthritis
have very little inflammation, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol*)
may be effective. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis generally have pain caused
by inflammation and often benefit from aspirin or other nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).
Heat and cold -- The decision to use either heat or cold
for arthritis pain depends on the type of arthritis and should be discussed
with your doctor or physical therapist. Moist heat, such as a warm bath or
shower, or dry heat, such as a heating pad, placed on the painful area of the
joint for about 15 minutes may relieve the pain. An ice pack (or a bag of
frozen vegetables) wrapped in a towel and placed on the sore area for about 15
minutes may help to reduce swelling and stop the pain. If you have poor
circulation, do not use cold packs.